Golf fans from around the world are going to be blown away.
Literally, perhaps, if the wind whips off the lake the way it often does at Whistling Straits. Figuratively, there is no doubt. Fans attending the 86th PGA Championship next week are in for an amazing experience.
Having covered more than 40 major championships at such hallowed golf grounds as Augusta National, Pebble Beach, Pinehurst and Shinnecock Hills, I can say unequivocally that Whistling Straits in Wisconsin beats them all in terms of jaw-dropping beauty and uncluttered panoramas.
In the calm before the storm, with the Straits closed to the public and workers making final preparations for the PGA, I toured Pete Dye's masterpiece with Steve Friedlander, the general manager and director of golf for the Kohler Co.
From vantage points high in the dunes, we gazed down at emerald ribbons of fairway framed by golden prairie grasses blowing in the breeze, with the blue water of Lake Michigan shimmering in the background.
"Not bad, huh?" Friedlander said with a knowing smile.
Not bad? I thought I'd Dyed and gone to heaven.
Whistling Straits looks sensational. The concession stands are strategically hidden in the dunes and there are no corporate hospitality tents anywhere on the course. Corporate hospitality is located in the 50-acre PGA Championship Village just inside the main gates.
"It's pure golf," Friedlander said. "We didn't want anything to detract from the course and the players. You look around and the hair stands up on the back of your neck. This is going to be such a great show."
Bleachers with seating for about 13,000 have been erected, but 75 percent of those seats are built into the sides of the natural amphitheater surrounding the ninth and 18th greens. It's going to be a dramatic setting for the conclusion of the championship a week from Sunday, with the sun casting shadows from behind the clubhouse and the stands packed with people.
There are only a few small bleachers scattered around the rest of the course. The sloping dunes on every hole provide superb vantage points. From the crests of some hills, spectators with binoculars will be able to view action on as many as four or five holes.
Every spectator will enter the grounds at the main gate and pass through the PGA Championship Village. The hot spot will be the Wanamaker Club, a 50,000-square-foot sports bar with a 50,000-square-foot deck.
The 40,000-square foot merchandise tent is conveniently located in the village, as is Pete Dye Plaza, where bands will entertain nightly.
It's about a 1,500-foot walk from the main gate to the first fairway and it's another quarter-mile to the clubhouse. Friedlander urged spectators to wear comfortable shoes and clothes and carry an umbrella if rain is in the forecast.
"You can't get in the clubhouse as a spectator and when you're on the back nine you're one and a half miles from the bus terminal," he said. "So where are you going to go? This is a wide-open place. There are no trees to hide under. You're out in the elements."
As for moving spectators around the course, the Kohler Co. has carved grassed walkways through the hummocks and dunes. It's not an easy walk because the terrain is uneven, but spectators will be able to walk all 18 holes if they so desire.
"Everybody asks us, 'How are you going to get people around this place?' " Friedlander said. "It's important to know that we can move people around pretty good. We have a lot of options for people to get around this property."
Friedlander also urged caution for those who climb the dunes.
"When I was at Doral, we had a dozen to 20 people fall and sprain their ankles every year," he said. "And Doral is flat as a pancake. When you have 30,000 people on the golf course, things are going to happen."
If I didn't have to cover the PGA, I'd walk the course in the morning and find a spot high in the bleachers behind the ninth green in the afternoon. From that vantage point, you can see most of the 18th hole and all of No. 9.
Most of the players, like the spectators, will be awed by Whistling Straits. A few players will hate it, but they will be the ones shooting 79-76 and checking out on the weekend. No touring pro ever professed love for a place where he missed the cut.
It's impossible to predict a winning score, because the 7,514-yard course is making its debut as a major championship venue.
But it's easy to predict what golf fans are going to say:
Give this place a U.S. Open.